Kuki students protest against Manipur Uni starting fresh admission
Earlier this month, Kuki students protested against Manipur Uni starting fresh admission

The narrative surrounding Manipur University, once celebrated as a bastion of education, has been marred by a series of disconcerting events that cast a shadow over its esteemed status. Recent incidents have spotlighted the distressing treatment faced by the Zo community, a stark reminder of the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, which remains one-sided mainly and influenced by the dominant Meitei community.

These occurrences unsurprisingly penetrate the commitment of the University meant to deliver justice from structural biases and ensure educational values and well-being are served to the Zo students systematically marginalised in the region’s academic landscape. The plight of Rayburn College, located in the heart of the Zo town called Lamka (Churachandpur), affiliated with the Manipur University, is a poignant example of this marginalised reality.

The latest examination result of the undergraduate Zo students revealed a disheartening outcome, with a mere 10 out of 76 students completing their Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. This glaring disparity in success rates raises pertinent questions about the adequacy of academic support systems in place at Manipur University.

A negligently revised result of the students was later declared where just 53% of the psychology students were announced “passed”. Moreover, disconcerting reports of students receiving zero marks in MIL Subjects, further underscore concerns about the transparency and fairness of the University’s examination procedures.

The distress deepens with the alarming incident that unfolded on the night of May 3—an attack by radical mobs on the university campus, targeting not only the Zo students but also academics and staff from the same community.

This unsettling occurrence serves as a stark testament to the University’s failure to safeguard the safety and well-being of its Zo community members. Perhaps even more concerning is the university administration’s response, wherein they chose to downplay the severity of the attack despite clear and compelling evidence to the contrary.

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This raises profound questions about the institution’s commitment to inclusivity, diversity, equity and accountability, particularly concerning matters affecting the Zo community.

In stark contrast to the ideals traditionally associated with educational institutions—environments of learning, tolerance, and respect—the recent events at Manipur University have unveiled a disheartening divergence from these principles. Once an emblem of unity and enlightenment, the University appears to be ensnared in the clutches of divisive ideologies that breed hatred and violence. Rather than nurturing an atmosphere conducive to learning, the institution has unfortunately found itself entangled in controversies and implicated in the mistreatment of the Zo community it should have been shielding.

This unfortunate turn of events not only tarnished the reputation of Manipur University but also signifies a betrayal of the core values that educational institutions are meant to uphold. The institution has transformed itself into a symbol of scorn rather than enlightenment by failing to support displaced Zo students, neglecting their protection, and disregarding their educational rights.

Additionally, the enmity against the Zo people is surprisingly ensnared even among professional Meitei academicians like Prof. Bhagat Oinam at the reputed Jawaharlal Nehru University.

His “defence” on the beheading of David Thiek Hmar on July 4, 2023, caught every sound-thinking academician by surprise. On the same day, after the unfortunate event when David’s head hung on a spike unravelled on the internet, Prof. Bhagat Oinam acclaimed that “in a lighter vein, the Northeast is well known for headhunting communities adding that the Kukis, Nagas as well Meiteis were headhunters.”

The astonishing remarks question the decades of education and epistemology ingrained by such figures positioned at an institution to establish a narrative that endorses the taking of life in the most gruesome manner. Much worse, the University did not condemn the professor for stating such remarks. Suppose educational institutions and the performing individual in such institutions subscribe to utilising an institution to uplift a particular ethnicity while essentialising epistemologies emerging from the performers to defend inhuman activities. In that case, the direction in which education in India is heading is at stake.

The growing concern among concerned citizens and students reflects a profound uncertainty about Manipur’s trajectory, precisely and India in general. Educational institutions, the bedrock of knowledge and learning, should ideally serve as bulwarks against divisive forces like hatred and communalism. Yet, the disconcerting reality is that Manipur University’s current state starkly deviates from this ideal.

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Its inability to ensure the safety of Zo students, even within the confines of classrooms and campuses, underscores deep-seated doubts about the future of education in the region. In summation, recent developments at Manipur University have cast an unsettling doubt over its standing as a reputable educational institution. The failure to maintain academic standards, marginalize certain community members through the grading system and stand as a beacon of enlightenment has led to a sense of disillusionment.

These pressing issues clearly indicate that division in ethnic lines is so deep that it is evident even in the sacred spheres of education, clearly stipulating the need for separation administration for the Zo community in Manipur.

Views expressed are personal and do not reflect EastMojo’s views on the issue.

Also Read | Kuki-Zo students demand offline classes, transfer from Manipur Uni

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